Moscow: into the wild emotions


South Sandwich Islands. Chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica) on an iceberg located between Zavodovski and Visokoi islands. South Sandwich Islands. 2009. Photograph by Sebastião SALGADO / Amazonas images

The word “genesis” means origin. In the first book of the biblical scriptures called “The book of Genesis”, this term refer to creation of the Earth. Legendary Magnum photographer Sebastiao Salgado called his exhibition “Genesis” to show us Earth like it used to be in old times. With his work he makes us back to the roots. But isolated places on Salgado’s photographs do not scare with its wildness. For me they rather reflect the background of Brazilian-born photographer – pure and emotional.

Tall 72-years old photographer is wearing jeans and trekking boots. Not a typical outfit for the opening of personal exhibition. Sebastiao Salgado looks calm, but when he start talking his eyes shine. He moves his hands emotionally. Even I don’t know French, I understand that he is talking about inspiring things. Basically, photography and nature. His disheveled eyebrows remind me of southern rockhopper penguin– the bird he used to photograph a lot. Animals and nature are the main theme of his exhibition. He also captured indigenous people and tribes.


When the weather is particularly hostile, the Nenets and their reindeer may spend several days in the same place. North of the Ob River, inside the Arctic Circle. Yamal Peninsula. Siberia. Russia. 2011. Photograph by Sebastião SALGADO / Amazonas images

Five years ago Sebastiao Salgado had finished his 8 years long journey to find untouched nature. He has been travelled to 32 places, like Antarctica, Kamchatka, Alaska, Wrangel Island. Yes, those spots we used to say in the middle of nowhere. In other words, they are without roads, buildings or visible traces of civilization. Salgado lived with African tribes for months and wondered in Amazonian jungles. Talking about one of the most remarkable experience in his life, Salgado remembers how he took part of reindeer herding in Yamal peninsula (north of Russia) with Nenets of the Siberian arctic. This indigenous people move gigantic herds of reindeer from summer pastures in the north to winter pastures just south of the Arctic Circle.

Actually, this experience was one of the most difficult as well. Salgado laughs that for him, a Brazilian born, it was unexpectedly cold. It was around 30-40 Celsius below zero. He could barely stand an hour outside, even in cold resistant uniform. So locals gave him typical uniform made of reindeer fur. In Yamal peninsula he spent 40 days without a shower – just like locals normally do. Once when they moved herds of reindeer from Ob River to Kara Sea, they lost. The sky and the earth were hardly distinguished. So instead of 25 hours they spent 50 hours on freezing air. The result of this trip is shown in his touching pictures. Together with other 245 photographs, exhibited in Moscow in cooperation with Multimedia Art Museum.


View of the junction of the Colorado and the Little Colorado from the Navajo territory. The Grand Canyon National Park begins after this junction. Arizona. USA. 2010. Photograph by Sebastião SALGADO / Amazonas images

If you are in Moscow, you know where to spend at least one hour. The exhibition of Sebastiao Salgado is being held in 18th century Mouravieff-Apostol mansion (18 February – 17 May). I think this is ideal place for such an exhibition, because unlike minimalistic museum space this mansion is very cozy. It makes you feel at home. Therefore pictures of wild and grandiose nature do not scare, but unite.

The exhibition divided in 5 themes: The South (Antarctic, Patagonia), the North (Russia, Canada, Alaska), Africa, Amazonia and Pacific islands. All of the pictures are black and white. And this decision is principal for Sebastiao Salgado, because color distracts from the main message. He said, that black and white are honest colors. Only walls are painted. And this is the idea of his wife, Lelia Wanick Salgado, who curates the exhibition. Every theme has its own color. Thus, the rooms with African photographs are red, like sands of Sahara. The South and North associated with gray skies that were chasing Salgado during his trip. Pictures made in Amazonia are hanging on green walls. Obviously, that Pacific reflects the color of the ocean.

But what impressed me the most is that during all Salgado’s journeys his wife was near – emotionally or physically. No matter how difficult was the trip, Lelia tried to come for few days. In front of her favorite picture, made in Venezuela’s Amazon rainforest, she cries that the waterfalls are absolutely grandiose. She was there, when the picture was made. And those waterfalls, located on the Ichun Plateau, are very isolated and difficult to reach. I found this fact naturally wild. Just like the exhibition.


Sebastião Salgado with his wife, Lelia Wanick Salgado, on the opening of exhibition “Genesis” in Moscow.

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One thought on “Moscow: into the wild emotions

  1. Mark Tannenbaum says:

    Fascinating career of the photographer captured in your post. The emphasis upon black and white images is just that; especially Genesis. In the beginning where is color? Only in the eye of the beholder. But Salgado captured his images as he saw without color. Nice article. Here is a link that I found that may add to your expression of this photographer:

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